In Unitarian-Universalism, we gather ourselves and our faith around seven Principles. Our Principles are not religious dogma in content. They are ethical principles in that they embody rather explicitly the things we value. They allow us to bring stories and content both religious and otherwise to them to help us reflect on how to live their wisdom. As such, they are or can be points of return for us. I think of points of return as those places, ideas, people and memories to which we return to find our center, to find our moorings, to find the clarity we need in order to make decisions, to move forward, to create.
4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
When it comes to the search for truth and meaning, I think that often people don’t think of this as any sort of “return” when it comes to religion and the spiritual life. Having and holding the right religious doctrine has been deeply ingrained into the people of many cultures. Fear is the product. How can one question and search for truth when “all truth” has been laid out by one’s religion? To seek more is arrogant. To question the received “truth” is heresy. Many lives over the centuries have been given for this principle of searching for truth and meaning–freely and responsibly.
This search for truth and meaning is a return. There is an inherent curiosity built into us as human beings. Children display this curiosity as soon as they can move about under their own steam–opening things, looking at things, touching things, tasting things, crawling, walking and running to places without any sense of boundary or fear. We say that our search for truth and meaning must be free, and we say that it must be responsible.
For me, one of the good outcomes of embracing this our fourth principle is that as I give myself permission to be a seeker of truth and meaning, I immediately become more capable to giving witness to the search for truth and meaning in others–even when what they believe and hold to be true is not the same as what I hold and believe to be true. There is a basic respect born of that freedom (which hearkens back to our first principle.)
We are free. We are responsible beings. Curiosity is built into our being. We can choose to return to ourselves today and see where this curiosity will lead us.